“Who says?”

I showed my ID again.

“But they're lying in the open.” His voice sounded flat, like a computer recording.

“Everything must remain in place.”

“We've got to do something. It's getting dark. Bears are gonna scent on these”—he stumbled for a word —“people.”

I'd seen what Ursus could do to a corpse and sympathized with the man's concerns. Nevertheless, I had to stop him.

“Everything must be photographed and recorded before it can be touched.”

He bunched the blanket with both hands, his face pinched with pain. I knew exactly what he was feeling. The need to do something, the uncertainty as to what. The sense of helplessness in the midst of overwhelming tragedy.

“Please spread the word that everything has to stay put. Then search for survivors.”

“You've got to be kidding.” His eyes swept the scene around us. “No one could survive this.”

“If anyone is alive they've got more to fear from bears than these folks do.” I indicated the body at his feet.

“And wolves,” he added in a hollow voice.

“What's the sheriff 's name?”


“Which one?”

He glanced toward a group near the fuselage.

“Tall one in the green jacket.”

I left him and hurried toward Crowe.

The sheriff was examining a map with a half dozen volunteer fire-fighters whose gear suggested they'd come from several jurisdictions. Even with head bent, Crowe was the tallest in the group. Under the jacket his shoulders looked broad and hard, suggesting regular workouts. I hoped I would not find myself at cross purposes with Sheriff Mountain Macho.

When I drew close the firemen stopped listening and looked in my direction.

“Sheriff Crowe?”

Crowe turned, and I realized that macho would not be an issue.

Her cheeks were high and broad, her skin cinnamon. The hair escaping her flat-brimmed hat was frizzy and carrot red. But what held my attention were her eyes. The irises were the color of glass in old Coke bottles. Highlighted by orange lashes and brows, and set against the tawny skin, the pale green was extraordinary. I guessed her age at around forty.

“And you are?” The voice was deep and gravelly, and suggested its owner wanted no nonsense.

“Dr. Temperance Brennan.”

“And you have reason to be at this site?”

“I'm with DMORT.”

Again the ID. She studied the card and handed it back.

“I heard a crash bulletin while driving from Charlotte to Knoxville. When I phoned Earl Bliss, who's leader of the Region Four team, he asked me to divert over, see if you need anything.”

A bit more diplomatic than Earl's actual comments.

For a moment the woman did not reply. Then she turned back to the firefighters, spoke a few words, and the men dispersed. Closing the gap between us, she held out her hand. The grip could injure.

“Lucy Crowe.”

“Please call me Tempe.”

She spread her feet, crossed her arms, and regarded me with the Coke-bottle eyes.

“I don't believe any of these poor souls will be needing medical attention.”

“I'm a forensic anthropologist, not a medical doctor. You've searched for survivors?”

She nodded with a single upward jerk of her head, the type of gesture I'd seen in India. “I thought something like this would be the ME's baby.”

“It's everybody's baby. Is the NTSB here yet?” I knew the National Transportation Safety Board never took long to arrive.

“They're coming. I've heard from every agency on the planet. NTSB, FBI, ATF, Red Cross, FAA, Forest Service, TVA, Department of the Interior. I wouldn't be surprised if the pope himself came riding over Wolf Knob there.”

“Interior and TVA?”

“The feds own most of this county; about eighty-five percent as national forest, five percent as reservation.” She extended a hand at shoulder level, moved it in a clockwise circle. “We're on what's called Big Laurel. Bryson

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